The trial of a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, continued on April 4, 2019, before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos with a prosecution witness, Abdulraheem Jimoh, a former Chief Inspector with the bank, revealing how loans granted by the defendant to certain individuals and companies were waived.
The defendant was arraigned on an amended 22-count charge bordering on abuse of office, conversion of funds belonging to Intercontinental Bank and stealing. Jimoh, while being further cross-examined by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to the defendant, told the court that his investigations and findings into the alleged fraud lasted about four months.
He said cheques were issued and authorized by the defendant in favour of Tropics Securities Limited, Tropics Properties Limited and Parkinson to the tune of N10 billion. He also added that Remi Adewumi, a Chief Inspector with the bank and Abel Osuji, Head, Invesigation and Business Risk Monitoring of the bank, were the signatories to the letter authorizing the issuance of the cheques.
The witness further told the court that he was not aware if the bank made any request from Tropics Securities Limited. Under further cross-examination, the witness said the payments were made to those companies. He stated that the query was carried out under the management and watch of Laide Alabi, a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, who succeeded Akingbola.
When asked if he engaged any stockbroker during his investigations to ascertain if the monies allegedly paid to the companies were for shares or not, the witness responded that he did not consult or seek the advice of any stock broker. He added that he did not know if Intercontinental Bank bought shares on behalf of the bank’s customers. The witness said the defendant granted loan worth N2.1billion to a company called ICML.
“But the loan granted to ICML has not been repaid,” he added.
The defence counsel confronted the witness with the documented testimony he gave at the Ikeja High Court in respect of this case on the February 28, 2010, where he said that ICML had repaid the loan from Intercontinental Bank on the authorization of Akingbola. The Placement with Other Financial Institution (POFI) was shown to the witness by the defence, where debit entries were made from ICML regarding the loan to the tune of N871.6million.
The witness further told the court that he knew a company called United Alliance Company of Nigeria Limited that was also granted the sums of N14.5billion, N14.27billion and N10.97billion in tranches, which were not repaid. The witness affirmed what the defence said that the directors of the United Alliance Company of Nigeria Limited were Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, the Managing Director of Access Bank and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
The witness also confirmed that Alabi, who succeeded Akingbola, wrote off loans amounting to billions of Naira in favour of those close to him, including a former governor and current Senate President of Nigeria, Bukola Saraki. The witness said: “I remember that loans granted to Dr. Bukola Saraki was written off by Laide Alabi”.
The witness also said he was aware of a company called Joy Petroleum Limited, adding that the loan of N3.9billion was also written off by Alabi. “I also know of a company called Limcers Limited whose loan of N3.6billion was written off”, the witness added. The witness, however, said the loans were not written off but were waved, which implied that the customers granted loans would pay an agreed part of the outstanding loan.
The witness was also cross-examined on the fact that Saraki was granted a loan of N1.8billion to one of his companies called Dicetrade Limited, which was also written off by the Alabi-led management. When he was told that Alabi was a managing director of Songa Farms Limited owned by Bukola Saraki, the witness said he was not aware of that.
When it was also put to him that Alabi was appointed the MD of the bank in order that he would write off loans of the people connected to the “power that be” at that time, who were indebted to the bank, he denied any knowledge of that. The witness also said he never knew if collaterals for the loans were returned to those granted loans as put across by the defence to the witness.
However, Olanipekun told the court that all the loans that were written off by Alabi are what his client is being charged with. However, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, re-examined the witness on his MBA certificate which he told an Ikeja High Court he obtained from University of Ilorin but also told Justice Olatoregun he did not obtain due to incomplete payment of certain fees.
When Jacobs sought to tender the statement of result obtained by the witness from the University of Ilorin, the defence objected to its admissibility on the grounds that the prosecution could not tender any document at the stage of re-examination. The court sustained the objection of the defence. Consequently, the prosecution counsel informed the court that he would not want to continue with the case and that he needed to consult his employer on his decision.
The defence team told the court that it did not know what necessitated the decision of the prosecution. Justice Olatoregun held that she “observed that Mr. Jacobs has not been serious about moving this case forward. “He must be ready to bring his witness at the adjourned date.”